Lowering a climber with an ATC


Original Post
Cory Furrow · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

I visited a new gym this afternoon and was overlooking a top rope belay class and I noticed something odd. All "students" were using the basic ATC.

When lowering the climber the belayer's left hand was above the device by about 8-12 inches. The belayer end of the rope was running up through the belayers left hand. Thus, the belayer's end of the rope was parallel to the climber's end of the rope. The right hand held on the belayers end of the rope and controlled the rope speed.

Am I missing something or is this sketch? Or, is the ATC looking device a chameleon for another device and this was proper use?

I was taught at my gym to keep both hands on the rope and in a braking position.

Regardless, if this was and ATC I can think to a few too many things that could go wrong with the set up that concerning.

thoughts?

Khoi · · Vancouver, BC · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 0

Not dangerous, but definitely not the ideal technique.

It would be far better if both their hands were holding the brake strand of the rope below the device.

Having one hand holding the rope ABOVE the device is kind of a waste of effort in my opinion. All energy and effort of that entire arm and shoulder is being wasted since none of that effort activates the ATC/tube style belay device.

In addition, having both hands holding the brake strand of the rope below the device gives an added margin of security. Let's say your in a crowded gym and someone bumps into you while you are lowering your climber. It would be better to have 2 hands on the brake strand rather than one.

Jeremy B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0
Cory F wrote:The right hand held on the other belayers end of the rope and controlled the rope speed.
Just how many belayer's ends were there?
Cory Furrow · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0
Jeremy B. wrote: Just how many belayer's ends were there?
Derp. Silly post work beer. I edited the OP, the right hand was on the brake end.

Khoi, I agree and found this very odd for a gym to teach new belayers. Instantly, 4 scenarios came to mind that could be problematic.
Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 511

Well, gym TR set up's tend to have so much ridiculous friction these days with stiff ropes and wraps around a pole at the top etc. that it can be nearly impossible to lower somebody. Lots of bad habits can develop here which don't translate well to newer, skinnier ropes used outdoors. Lifting the brake hand above the device may be necessary to lower in these high friction situations.

Ideally, when lowering with tube style devices, both hands on the brake, one for braking, one to sort out twists and tangles and to backup the brake.

OAW King · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 35

Was the rope wrapped twice around the anchor bar up top? Sometimes when gyms do this it adds a ton of friction and takes a big change in angle of rope entry into the device to get the load(climber) moving.

Matt

Emil Briggs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 100
Greg D wrote: Well, gym TR set up's tend to have so much ridiculous friction these days with stiff ropes and wraps around a pole at the top etc. that it can be nearly impossible to lower somebody. Lots of bad habits can develop here which don't translate well to newer, skinnier ropes used outdoors. Lifting the brake hand above the device may be necessary to lower in these high friction situations. Ideally, when lowering with tube style devices, both hands on the brake, one for braking, one to sort out twists and tangles and to backup the brake.
Indeed. My daughter weighs around 100 pounds or so and I've belayed her on TR in gyms where I had to lift my brake hand way above the device in order to lower her. She wouldn't move otherwise.
beau Griffith · · Fresno, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 15
Greg D wrote: Well, gym TR set up's tend to have so much ridiculous friction these days with stiff ropes and wraps around a pole at the top etc. that it can be nearly impossible to lower somebody. Lots of bad habits can develop here which don't translate well to newer, skinnier ropes used outdoors. Lifting the brake hand above the device may be necessary to lower in these high friction situations. Ideally, when lowering with tube style devices, both hands on the brake, one for braking, one to sort out twists and tangles and to backup the brake.
This is the case at my gym. If it's humid out (and the ropes swell even the tiniest bit), it can be damn near impossible to get lowered. I weigh 150 pounds and I got stuck one time and had to "bounce" my way down. I hate that they provide so much damn friction with that wrap.

That said, the gym still teaches "proper" belay technique in its classes.
Cory Furrow · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0
Greg D wrote: Lots of bad habits can develop here which don't translate well to newer, skinnier ropes used outdoors.
That was exactly my thought!!!

I tried looking without intruding, I couldn't tell if the rope was double wrapped. It was really thick.
Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5
OAW wrote:Was the rope wrapped twice around the anchor bar up top? Sometimes when gyms do this it adds a ton of friction and takes a big change in angle of rope entry into the device to get the load(climber) moving. Matt
One of the gyms near me does that and it drive me f'n crazy.
Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 95
Cory F wrote:I was taught at my gym to keep both hands on the rope and in a braking position.
Really? Both hands? At all times? I have my right hand in the break position. If I had both hands in the break position, the hands would have to be pretty close to the belay device. If I need extra grip, I will bring my left hand down to the break position, or reach behind me to grab the rope.
Cory Furrow · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

I don't strictly follow the "two hands rule". However, the two hands does allow for more control over the lower than one hand. This is especially the case with skinny new ropes and a heavy climber.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165

If the gym is like ours it is fun to screw with them and do a no hands lower by just running the rope around your leg.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

I can' imagine lowering somebody on an ATC without two hands on the brake unless they're like 60 lbs.

steverett · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 40
Ted Pinson wrote:I can' imagine lowering somebody on an ATC without two hands on the brake unless they're like 60 lbs.
On a normal redirect belay, I always use 2 hands. However, I've climbed at a gym where I had to use one hand to hold the ATC away from the biner just to be able to lower at a reasonable speed. Using 2 hands would have been painfully slow (pushing it into the ATC), or dangerous (I'd have to bring the brake strand up almost parallel with the climber's, at which point it was very close to too little friction)
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Yeah, I've never tried belaying on a double wrapped pipe with an ATC (the gym nearby that does this permanently attaches Grigris to the topropes), but I can imagine it would be a pain...and would encourage bad habits.

steverett · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 40
Ted Pinson wrote:Yeah, I've never tried belaying on a double wrapped pipe with an ATC (the gym nearby that does this permanently attaches Grigris to the topropes), but I can imagine it would be a pain...and would encourage bad habits.
Actually I saw even worse habits at the gym that did the wrap + grigri. I saw gym staff actually instructing people to hold the lever down and move the brake strand all the way up. Or people would let go of the brake strand and pull the other side through with their brake hand.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Oh, totally. I think both practices are horrible and lead to a really jolting gym-crag experience. Once took a guy climbing who'd been climbing in the gym for a while but never learned to tie a figure 8 or thread a Grigri properly...

It should be mentioned that the gym was BKB.

GabeO · · New Haven, CT · Joined May 2006 · Points: 286
Cory F wrote:I visited a new gym this afternoon and was overlooking a top rope belay class and I noticed something odd. All "students" were using the basic ATC. When lowering the climber the belayer's left hand was above the device by about 8-12 inches. The belayer end of the rope was running up through the belayers left hand. Thus, the belayer's end of the rope was parallel to the climber's end of the rope. The right hand held on the belayers end of the rope and controlled the rope speed. Am I missing something or is this sketch? Or, is the ATC looking device a chameleon for another device and this was proper use? I was taught at my gym to keep both hands on the rope and in a braking position. Regardless, if this was and ATC I can think to a few too many things that could go wrong with the set up that concerning. thoughts?
Sorry, your description (post-edit, I gather) is still kind of difficult to interpret. If what you saw the students doing was belaying with both hands on the belay device, with the belay strand above the device, parallel (or close to parallel) to the climber strand, then this is dead wrong.

I've absolutely seen it done, where the speed of the descent is totally controlled by gripping tightly, and trying not to lose control. It works well enough in a gym with a ton of friction in the anchor, but is terrible, terrible technique, because in most situations it's an accident waiting to happen.

I hope that's clear. This is not a gray area.

All that being said, it can happen that the rope in the anchor at some gyms can get pinched so that you not only have to get the belay strand above the device, but you need to feed the rope into your ATC. Usually, as a belayer, you can move around to the right position to allow the rope in the anchor to free up, allowing proper belaying again.

Cheers,

GO
Mark Thesing · · Central Indiana · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 55

If you use an ATC for reppelling, what is your hand positions? Most people would have one hand on each side of the ATC. If it works for rapplling it will work for belaying.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Mark, think about that one for a second. How is belaying different from rappelling? Hint: why does an ATC have two holes? Since you are rappelling off of two strands, you effectively have twice the friction, hence why it's much easier to control.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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